The Sigma 10514 Almost Fits the Navy’s Frigate Requirements

KRI Diponegoro, a Sigma 9113 class Corvette of the Indonesian Navy. Photo courtesy of Wim Kosten thru Wikimedia Commons.
KRI Diponegoro, a Sigma 9113 class Corvette of the Indonesian Navy. Photo courtesy of Wim Kosten thru Wikimedia Commons.

Today, October 2, 2015, marks the SECOND YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the bidding for the Philippine Navy (PhN)’s two brand new Frigates. Yessir, the whole project is now TWO YEARS OLD and can be called a “Saga” already, with still no end in sight. The project is still a “Go”, with PNoy finally signing off the approval for the release of their budget last September 8, 2015.[1]

However, no definite date has been officially announced to the public on WHEN the next stages of the bidding will be made, although a representative of one of the bidders, India’s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) said in an interview that the Financial Bids are going to be opened “soon”, but that the announcement of the winner will likely be done only by the end of the year probably after the Post-Bidding checks have been completed.[2]

So instead of just ranting about the delay like what I did last year to mark the first year anniversary of the Frigate bidding,[3] I decided to just come up with something a little less negative, like a “what could have been”.

While surfing the internet, and reading and drooling over the Indonesian Navy’s Sigma-class Corvettes one time, it suddenly just occurred to me that the Sigma 10514 would’ve actually fit almost exactly into the PhN’s technical requirements for its new Frigate Acquisition program, hence I have decided to explore this in depth a little bit more with this blog. I will try to take a look at how it fits, and ultimately the possible issues as to why these ships did not end up as among the candidates for the bidding.

’The Sigma Class’[4]
The Sigma class is a series of ships sharing the same general hull design and layout ranging in size from 700 to 2,500 tons in weight, and with different roles ranging from Fast Attack Crafts (FACs) to Frigates. “Sigma” stands for “Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach”, which shows you how desperate the manufacturer was to use “Sigma” as acronym for this line of ships. It is made by the Dutch company “Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding”, and the first ship entered naval service in 2004.

Only seven ships have been commissioned into naval service so far, with the Indonesian Navy having four and the Moroccan Navy having three. The series has a unique numbering system wherein the LENGTH and BREADTH (or width) of the ship is used as its model number. Indonesia has four Sigma 9113 (meaning the ships are 91 m long and 13 m wide) while Morocco has two Sigma 9813 and one Sigma 10513. The model we are particularly interested in would be the Sigma 10514, the heaviest and most suited to our requirements.

’Fits the Requirements’[5][6]
The first thing that gave me the idea that these ships would fit into our requirements was looking at the pictures of their ARMAMENTS. Both the Sigma 9813 and Sigma 10513 carry four Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs) each in two launchers, which is the same as the PhN requirements. The Sigma 9813 also carries two Mistral Tetral Surface to Air Missile (SAM) launchers, but the PhN requirement is only for one quadruple launcher, hence the 9813 exceeds the specs comfortably. The bigger Sigma 10514 even has provisions for a twelve-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS).

In terms of performance, the specs require a range of at least 8,325 km at 15 knots and a maximum speed of at least 25 knots, and the Sigma 10514 likely meets this requirement having a range of 9,250 km at 14 knots and a maximum speed of 28 knots.

Among the series, though, only the biggest ship, the Sigma 10514 can carry a 10-ton helicopter in an enclosed hangar as per the specs, with the other ships only being able to carry lighter helicopters. Each ship also carries two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), meeting the required two RHIB requirement.

All seven ships in service right now only seems to have manually aimed 20 mm guns as Secondary Gun Armament, but the requirement is for a stabilized gun that can be remotely controlled by the Fire Control System (FCS). But I don’t think this will be an issue as guns like the Mk 38 Mod 2 (the same ones being used on our PF-16 BRP Ramon Alcaraz) could probably be easily installed on the ship. In fact, most brochures show these Sigma ships as armed with the bigger, heavier, more sophisticated and more expensive Millenium Gun System (MGS).

Among the other MAJOR Frigate requirements which the Sigma 10514 can easily meet are as follows:
– Three Torpedo Launchers on each side minimum (currently using B515 Triple Torpedo Launchers on each side);
– Three decoy launchers on each side minimum (currently using Terma SKWS Decoy System with at least six launchers per side);
– A Sonar system (currently using a Thales Kingclip UMS 4132 Hull Mounted Sonar)
– Electro Optical (EO) Targeting system (currently has two, the Thales Target Designation Sights (TDS) and Thales LIROD Mk2 Radar/EO Fire Control System)
– Electronic Warfare System (currently has two, the Thales Vigile 100 and Thales Scorpion 2)

’Roadblocks’
There are two major roadblocks though for the Sigma 10514 with regards to our requirements. First is its ENDURANCE, where the requirement is for 30 days but the ship can only stay out for a maximum of 20 days. This seems like a major issue since it means the manufacturer will have to increase the storage capacity for some of the CONSUMABLES (i.e. Food, Oil, etc.) of the ship by 50%, and doing that means more weight and space will have to be allocated for these items. Because of the additional 50% longer period of stay at sea, they will also have to improve the HABITABILITY (i.e., Accommodations, Recreation, etc.) of the ship so the crew will be more comfortable staying longer away from port.

Second would probably be the PRICE. When Indonesia signed the contract for its first Sigma 10514, it was worth USD 220 million reportedly for the hull only, with no armaments.[7] Now compare this to the USD 167 million budget we have for the ship only with no weapons,[8] and you can see the big difference in price. Damen could have cut some corners here and there to reduce the cost of the ship, like for example installing the cheaper Mistral Tetral and 2D Air/Surface Search Radar which will meet the minimum requirements instead of the twelve-cell VLS for the SAMs and the 3D Radar.

However, whatever savings they might have had would’ve been lost due to extending the ship’s ability to stay afloat by an additional ten days, and therein might have been the issue: Damen could have decided that there was just no way for them to meet the specifications at the current budget that we have. Damen was initially interested in joining the bidding when it bought the bid documents, but ultimately they decided NOT to join the bidding itself.[9]

’Parting Shot’
In summary, these Sigma class of ships are some of the newest and most modern ships in the world right now, and they almost fit our Navy’s requirements except for the Price and Endurance, but ultimately the manufacturer didn’t think they can build the ships at the price that they want. But we shouldn’t worry too much as a lot of other ship manufacturers have come forward to join our bidding, indicating that they CAN provide a ship with the capability we are looking for at the price that we are willing to pay for them.

I’m just not sure if the ship we will get will be as aesthetically pleasing as these Sigmas, but as long as they perform well as we ask them to, then it should be okay. In fact that may be the most important point in the end. Here’s hoping that the very first brand new Frigate procurement in the entire history of the Republic of the Philippines will finally push thru …

KRI Sultan Iskandar Muda, a Sigma 9113 class Corvette of the Indonesian Navy. Photo courtesy of Wim Kosten thru Wikimedia Commons.
KRI Sultan Iskandar Muda, a Sigma 9113 class Corvette of the Indonesian Navy. Photo courtesy of Wim Kosten thru Wikimedia Commons.

SOURCES:

^[1] Acquisition of much-needed military equipment given green light –DND,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160607132103/https://plus.google.com/107736623481166495077/posts/bCYu9FAdXCa

^[2] Manila to soon decide if it will buy India-built warships,
https://web.archive.org/web/20151024090243/http://www.htsyndication.com/htsportal/article/Manila-to-soon-decide-if-it-will-buy-India-built-warships/7881890

^[3] New Frigate Acquisition Bidding Delay – November 2013,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160728065821/https://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/new-frigate-acquisition-bidding-delay-november-2014/

^[4] Sigma-class Corvette,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160123042017/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigma-class_corvette

^[5] Philippine Navy Frigate Acquisition Project Technical Requirements,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160607124214/https://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/philippine-navy-frigate-acquisition-project-technical-requirements/

^[6] Sigma 10514 PKR Frigate – Indonesian Navy,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160614193520/http://navyrecognition.com/index.php/world-naval-forces/asian-navies-vessels-ships-equipment/indonesia/frigates-and-corvettes/778-sigma-10514-pkr-frigate-indonesia-indonesian-navy-tni-al-perusak-kawal-rudal-pt-pal-dsns-damen-schelde-naval-shipbuilding-kri-datasheet-pictures-photos-video-specifications.html

^[7] Indonesia signs contract for US$220m destroyer escort,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160728070319/http://defence.pk/threads/indonesia-signs-220-million-contract-for-1-sigma-destroyer-escort.185432/

^[8] DND to spend P15 B for two ships, P2.5 B for ammunition,
https://web.archive.org/web/20140814042305/http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/08/10/1355874/dnd-spend-p15-b-two-ships-p2.5-b-ammunition

^[9] 4 firms qualify for P18-B Navy frigate bidding,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160303174037/http://www.philstar.com/metro/2013/12/07/1265021/4-firms-qualify-p18-b-navy-frigate-bidding

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31 thoughts on “The Sigma 10514 Almost Fits the Navy’s Frigate Requirements”

    1. Not necessarily, lem1. As per our laws, the contract should be awarded to the supplier who can meet the specifications AND provide the lowest bid, and the way the bidding is made it is almost fool proof.

      What the DND will do is schedule when the bidding will take place, and all the bidders will submit their sealed bids at the same time. Those bids will then be opened and announced right away in front of all the bidders, and the one with the lowest bid wins.

      It doesn’t end there, of course, there will still be Post-Bidding checks to be made, and if no issues are found at this stage then the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder …

  1. Yes sir,as mentioned in the blog above the issue with the Damen itself is the price which for sure the Philippine government could not afford.It would be Korean or india will going to win in this project plus the fact that they’re a lot of sweetener offering to us such those mulgae class and the on going plan of donating those pohang class of ships to us.

  2. We have a narrow option for this acquisition, but ill go for the korean firms if they do it with VLS and 2x RAM for anti air warfare and good sophisticated air radar, i hope our budget will find its way.. GOOD LUCK PN!

  3. Why is it that the PN is procuring expensive Frigates when it cannot even procure smaller and less expensive MPACs in decent numbers from our miniscule yearly defense budget. Regardless of capabilities of the type of naval vessel, the PN should first start with minor surface combatants in large numbes like MPACs, Missile Boats & Torpedo Boats before procuring very few large vessels like OPVs, Corvettes, Cutters, Frigates, Destroyers, Cruisers, submarines and Helicopter Carriers. Just maintain and utilize the present large vessels of the PN. If we can buy 20 MPACs as against 1 Frigate with the same cost, better procure the 20 MPACs than a single Frigate which will be more useful in catching hundreds of illegal Chinese fishing boats exploiting and destroying the marine resources inside our EEZ at the loss of our local fishermen.

    1. I wouldn’t want to second guess the Navy on how they should do their job, at least not in this instance. If they feel they need a long range, long duration, all weather ship to do their job properly, then so be it. Besides, the Spratlys are around 400-500 km from the coast of Palawan, so they do need ships with long ranges to reach and patrol those areas …

      1. Do not shelve big tickets bcoz we really need them, but at least they have program to locally produce mpacs in large quantity since we already had 3 mpacs manufactured in ph before. Consider also manpads for mpacs as additional weapons.

      2. If our small fishing boats can reach Scarborough Shoal, the more it is easy for MPACs to reach it and faster and they can also be deployed at Pag-Asa Island if only the PN has the foresight to develop berthing facilities there. A frigate or two has no usefulness at this time but only to patrol with nothing to catch when blocked by Chinese maritime patrol ships. 20 MPACs will produce results and has better chances of catching and harassing Chinese illegal fishing boats unless China deploys 20 maritime ships to protect it’s fishermen but will be very expensive and impractical with the large amount of ship fuel they have to waste.

      3. Well, Scarborough Shoal is around 240 km from the nearest landfall in the Philippines. To reach that area, it will take ships travelling at the economical speed of 15 knots at least 9-10 hours to get there. Even if you double that speed to 30 knots, it will still take boats at least 4-5 hours to get there one way.

        So it won’t be economical or even practical from a time and cost point of view to go back and forth there everyday, you would want to send a boat that can stay in that area to do patrols for a couple of days or weeks before going back to base.

        The problem is that MPACs are not built for days-long patrols, they are primarily assault ships that can transfer troops to the beach from other beaches/ports/other boats. The MPACs don’t have sleeping quarters, or storage areas for food and water. To simply put, they are not suitable for patrolling areas that far out from the shore.

        We need boats or ships that can stay long in an area that far away from shore for weeks at a time, which is specifically what the Frigates can do …

  4. In face value and in understanding RHK’s previous blogs, MPAC’s won’t stand a chance against bigger ships in head-on battle and against aircrafts. And that they can only be effective in ‘swarm’ technique. So we need a lot of those in the first place and not just 3 or 6 or 9. Even a fleet 20 to 30 cannot be relied upon because they can be obliterated by just a squadron of attack helicopters.

    Obviously, I am not a fan of fast attack crafts because they cannot be relied upon in the high seas where most of the action is.

    1. MPACs are not meant to be used in naval combat but only to catch and harass illegal foreign fishing boats inside our EEZ or stop sea piracy and smuggling. The solution for MPACs to be able to stay longer, guard and patrol Scarborough Shoal for 1-4 weeks is to accompany them with a Supply Ship that will provide the accomodation & dining to the seamen, fuel and ammunition to the MPACs and whatever supplies they will require to stay long at sea. It is easier to sink our expensive but toothless Frigates than 10-20 small MPACs running scattered if suddenly attacked by a modern Chinese MIssile Frigate. It will be long-range coastal-based anti-ship missiles (if we get lucky to have) that can only protect our Frigates or have the capability to counter-attack. Our naval ships will only be target practice for the Chinese Navy and Air Force once they are deployed in the man-made islands.

      1. It is more efficient and cost-effective to deploy long-range maritime patrol planes to scout the vast sea expanse of our EEZ than a frigate and only deploy the MPACs once undesirable foreign vessels have been detected by our maritime planes. 1-4 of our frigates don’t stand a chance against a blockade by Chinese naval & maritime ships. But if we have 20-80 MPACs scrambling around1-4 Chinese naval ships, they will get too dizzy they won’t know which MPAC they will block.

      2. Well, first time I have heard of such a suggestion. No known navy or even Coast Guard have been known to do such a thing, probably for practicality issues. If we did try to do it, then we would be the first, LOL.

    2. A squadron of Chinese Attack Helicopters launched from the Chinese man-made islands at Spratly can also easily and quickly sink a single Phil. Frigate compared to 20 MPACs scattering in different directions.

      1. Not really. You forget that the Del Pilar class ship’s 76 mm gun can are also effectively Anti-Air weapons, against both Helicopters and missiles. And the Del Pilar also has a decent decoy system with their Mk 36 Super Rapid Blooming Chaff …

      2. Short-range 76-mm anti-aircraft guns may be able to shoot down 1, 2 or 3 Attack Helicopters out of a squadron of 12. The other 9-10 will be the one to sink our lightly-armed frigates especially if fitted with long-range laser-guided anti-ship missiles.

      3. Well at least the Frigates have Anti-Air defenses, something which MPACs don’t have at all. Besides, no MPAC would be able to out run Helicopters, but r their missiles …

  5. Yes, of course, no known Navy or Coast Guard have tried using small Fast Attack Crafts accompanied by a Supply Ship bec. it is a new tactical strategy that needs to be tested and analyze it’s effectivity as an alternative for militarily-weak Philippines which cannot afford to procure Frigates in large numbers at this time when it is urgently needed. As I have said, we don’t need just a few1-6 Frigates to patrol our seas for long periods of time if it cannot produce results but only waste ship fuel joy-riding around the seas. They are incapable of kicking Chinese naval & maritime ships out of our EEZ or even arresting illegal Chinese fishing boats as shown by the stand-off at Scarborough Shoal. Coast Guard Fast Attack Crafts actually did better and deserve praise and credit for catching illegal foreign fishing boats.

    1. A one-on-one stand-off at Scarborough shoal bet. a lightly-armed Phil. Frigate and a modern Chinese Missile Frigate that accidentally leads to a shooting battle will have very little chance of sinking the Chinese Frigate compared to 20 MPACs (armed with 2 torpedoes each or anti-tank guns) surrounding a Chinese Frigate..

  6. A single Phil. Frigate maybe will get lucky (if not blocked by a Chinese Frigate) in catching a single Chiinese fishing boat. But 20 MPACs has greater chances of catching more illegal Chinese fishing boats even if chased by a single Chinese Frigate.

  7. Let us just accept the fact and reality that no matter how many modern frigates our government procures, the PN is no match to the naval strength of China. For every frigate we send to Scarborough, China will send 2 to 4 frigates to surround it. The solution is do what China is doing to us. For every frigate China sends, surround it with 4 to 10 MPCs so instead of the planned 4 modern frigates, AFP must and should procure 160 MPACs which will be sufficient to initially patrol our EEZ and playing dog, cat & mouse game against the Chinese. Let our MPACs (cat) catch illegal Chinese fishing boats (mouse) while Chinese naval/maritime ships (dogs) are chasing us. It is the PAF which should be given more priority as back-up for the PN. It must have at least 5 squadrons of Gripen MRFs, 3 squadrons of Attack Helicopters, a squadron of P3Cs, a squadron of Hawkeye AEWs and 10 batteries of long-range land-based mobile SAMs and ASMs. The likelihood of an armed confrontation against China will be limited to Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal and we have the advantage of distance and travel time over China in reaching the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal. Though the US will not get involved in the event of a confrontation against China over Spratly and Scarborough, the US gave us an iron-clad assurance that it will at least protect our Mainland from being attacked by China.

    1. If we want something that can hurt China badly, then the best recourse is to go with Submarines. The problem is that our navy is so far behind technically that doing so now would be very risky in that we will have problems keeping them in optimal operating status.

      But, it f we are willing to take the risks and willing to make mistakes and learn as we go along, then the reward would be an effective deterrent to China.

      1. That is the problem, we don’t have the funds and the technological know-how to operate and maintain submarines so it is not feasible and just gathering dust in the PN planning. What the AFP needs is what it can only afford to buy. Weapon systems like armor-plated Torpedo Boats are cheaper to buy than torpedo-carrying submarines. New technology will be developed that can easily detect submarines and make them obsolete. SAM and ASMs missiles installed on land are cheaper than installing them on Frigates and MRFs. Doesn’t matter if Frigates and MRFs can extend the range of missiles bec. missiles can now reach the 200-nm limit of our EEZ and we do not need to go beyond that boundary.

  8. hmmm… I think I can give some advice regarding the post about sigma class and those discussions you guys are having.

    First off, about the Filipino budget to acquire 2 frigates, I will say it is “almost impossible” to acquire anything that can be used effectively countering Chinese threats in SCS/WPS. Many people already doubt the point that, will the Filipinos be available to buy Fully armed and fitted Incheon class FFG.

    As you’ve already mentioned, Sigma class frigates ain’t that cheap enough for PN to afford it.

    The cheapest model, the SIGMA 9113 was 137 million Euros due to source from July 2007, when Indonesian navy acquired it. Now after 8 years that have already past, due to inflation the cost of the warship will be around 160 million Euros per ship that barely matches up to Filipino requirements and I doubt if PhP 18 billion or 354 million Euros will be enough even for buying 2 SIGMA 9813 s.

    Regarding how expensive the cheapest and most lightly armed and equipped SIGMA 9113 is, and what you’ve already mentioned on your post, the current SIGMA 10514 is no where close from what PN would be able to choose. Even if they use the same hull, that is no use when its equipped with ageing or incapable sensor, propulsion and armament suite to match the budget.

    Second, talking about securing the interests in Filipino EEZ, I am quite sure MPACs are no use against any reference threat both in peacetime and wartime security.

    At the first place, MPACs cannot handle anything regarding Chinese illegal fishers and Coast Guards, due to the fact that they are in the civil sector and MPACs are in military organization called Philippines navy.

    Talking about building up effective strength to protect Filipino EEZ during peacetime, thats anyways the role of Philippines Coast guard not the PN.

    Based on what I’ve saw till now, size and displacement along with the powerful propulsion always have done an important role encountering opposing coast guard surface vessel.

    For example, clash of Korean and Japanese coast guard vessel around Dokdo/Takeshima Islands (or simply Liancourt Rocks) have been a monthly basis. Due to the fact that Koreans were not available to out number Japanese vessels and keep the superiority over the area control, they’ve simply grew the size and propulsion of the vessel, which, even when out numbered by 1:3, the superiority was always at the Korean side.

    Korean peace-keeping and surveillance activities in the Southern side of the NLL against North Korean vessels also give some good practical examples. Chamsouri class patrol boats (now which does are fading out, replaced by new PKX-A and PKX-B) are very small FACs of only 170 tons of displacement. They are supplemented by Pohang class corvettes and Ulsan class frigates. Also, for longer stay and better readiness, there are offshore FFBs around the West Sea of Korea where Chamsuris come back after mission and conduct simple maintenance along with refueling, thus providing crew place to rest.

    So the point is that smaller vessels are the most effective supplementing bigger vessels by managing smaller roles which doesn’t need huge ships to be done. Bigger = It is capable of handling more kinds of jobs.

    Now that I’ve explained why tiny patrol boats are not capable of securing Filipino EEZ during peacetime, now I will explain why it is idiotic to equip PN with various kinds of FACs instead of corvettes and frigates.

    This actually doesn’t need such a long explanation. Downfall of FACs along with the rise of maritime helicopters, started in Falkland wars and reached its peak in Gulf wars. Iraqi FACs have been massacred by attack and multi purpose helicopters. 2.75 inch Hydra rockets and Hellfire, Sea Skua and Penguin missiles were super effective against such targets. Now days, most of the surface vessels have heli-deck and hangers and FACs have been replaced by OPVs and Stealth Corvettes. It is clear that FACs are no longer effective high intensity conflict unless they are extremely stealthy or is under powerful FAD.

    Once more, the point of time when PN choose to stuff themselves with useless FACs like MPACs will be the point of the ruin of their naval security.

    ps. Incheon class has places to fit short VLS. The competing anti-air armaments during its procurement was VL-MICA against RIM-116 RAM. If you don’t understand how that works, ask me once more. I will answer it with joy.

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